Brokedown Palace

Brokedown Palace is a 1999 American drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, and starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman and Lim Kay Tong. It deals with two American friends imprisoned in Thailand for alleged drug smuggling. Its title is taken from a Grateful Dead song written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter from their 1970 album American Beauty.

Brokedown Palace
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Kaplan
Produced byAdam Fields
Written byDavid Arata
Adam Fields
David Arata
Music byDavid Newman
CinematographyNewton Thomas Sigel
Edited byDon Zimmerman
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • August 13, 1999 (1999-08-13) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Thai
Budget$25 million
Box office$10.1 million


Lifelong best friends Alice Marano and Darlene Davis take a trip after graduating from high school, giving their parents the impression that they're going to Hawaii. However, Alice talks Darlene into going to Thailand instead, after comparing the prices of both destinations. Darlene agrees, albeit with some reluctance. Once in Thailand, they meet a captivating Australian man who calls himself Nick Parks. Unknown to them, Nick Parks is a drug smuggler. Darlene is particularly smitten with Nick and convinces Alice to take Nick up on his offer to treat the two of them to what amounts to a day trip to Hong Kong. While boarding their flight at Don Mueang International Airport, the girls are seized by the police. Alice and Darlene are shocked to discover that one of their bags contains heroin, which had been planted by Nick.

The two girls are interrogated by the Thai police and Darlene signs a confession written in Thai, which she foolishly thinks is her verbatim statement. At their trial, they beg for mercy and are given a lenient 33-year sentence instead of the usual life sentence in prison. In prison, the girls are advised to seek out Henry Greene, aka "Yankee Hank", an expatriate American attorney living in Thailand.

As the girls try to deal with the violence and squalor of prison, Hank begins work on their case. He tracks down another girl who had been used as an unwitting drug mule by Nick Parks, but is warned that the smuggler has friends in high places. Hank arranges a deal with a corrupt prosecutor whereby the girls will receive clemency if they "confess" to lying about Parks' involvement and take full blame. The girls agree, but the prosecutor double crosses them on the deal. Realizing that Darlene will not survive their time in prison, Alice begs the King of Thailand to allow her to serve both sentences in exchange for letting Darlene go. The deal is accepted and Darlene is released. She promises to continue working with Henry to try and free Alice.



Because the film presents a critical view of the Thai legal system, most of the scenes were filmed in the Philippines; however, some panoramas and views were filmed in Bangkok. Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 stood in for Don Mueang International Airport and during the airport arrest scene, a Philippine Airlines Boeing 747-400 is seen. The prison scenes were shot at the Manila City Jail.


Brokedown Palace received negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film "Rotten", with only 31% of 35 critics giving positive reviews, summarizing that the movie "lacks credibility and tension".[1] Roger Ebert however gave the film three out of four stars, saying "The heart of the film is in the performances of Danes and Beckinsale".

The film underperformed at the box office, failing to make back even half of its $25 million budget.

See also


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